Until now, if you’d been looking for a BMW M division app, there was only one – the ‘BMW M Power Meter’, a simple enough tool using the forward and lateral forces on a smartphone to calculate your car’s acceleration and lateral G forces.
But while it’s good for a bit of light-hearted fun, its practical uses are somewhat limited.
Now there’s the ‘BMW M Laptimer app’, a handheld vehicle telemetry device for analysing and comparing lap times around a race track.
It’s more than just a fancy bit of software though. Unlike the ‘M Power Meter’ the ‘M Laptimer’ uses the vehicle’s own sensor data – accelerator performance, angle of steering lock, deceleration, engine speed, transmission and fuel consumption – combining this with GPS position, speed, forward acceleration and lateral acceleration.
You’ll need a BMW car with Professional navigation and BMW Apps as special equipment, an Apple iPhone connected via BMW’s snap-in adapter or USB cable and of course the app itself, which can be downloaded from the iTunes store.
After installation, the app is operated solely by the vehicle’s head unit with the iDrive controller and will function either on the track or on public roads – although a stern warning on startup advises that it’s intended for use on a closed track. You can however use it on the road to improve the fuel consumption of your vehicle, comparing this against the data traces for throttle, RPM and braking.
It’s a useful learning tool, with the added bonus that data can be compared with a friend either on each other’s smartphones or by emailing a recording of the lap for analysis off-line. You can also share the results on Facebook and Twitter.
First impressions are positive; there’s a ‘map’ view for playing an animation of your lap, accompanied by a steering wheel which moves as the car turns for each bump or corner. This also shows a real-time display of the vehicle’s speed at each point on the track.
A selector at the top of the screen can adjust the view to show throttle, brake, RPM, fuel and G-Force and the split-screen view at the bottom shows the trace of each data stream against your position on the track.
The app comes into its own when comparing more than one lap. By selecting ‘vs’ at the top of the window another data stream can be loaded and then compared to analyse your driving performance further. You can then slide the trace left or right or pinch to zoom out, while the map view shows both cars moving around the track.
Thus far the M Laptimer is only available on iPhones, but BMW will consider producing an Android OS version if there’s sufficient demand.